One Life Beneath the Surface

from Kristy Fassler-Hecht

When we pulled into our driveway a police car pulled in right behind us. He must have been waiting for us. After quickly verifying our identities, he gave us the news.

“Your son has been in a serious accident. He has a head injury and is in critical condition. Here are the numbers to call.”

Ben had been riding his bicycle down a steep hill, when a car suddenly turned left in front of him. He smashed into it going about thirty miles an hour. He was airborne for some twenty-five feet before the back of his head slammed into the pavement.

He was not wearing a helmet.

Now he was going in and out of consciousness in the ICU at the Albany New York Medical Center, four hours from our home in southern Maine. He had a fractured skull, multiple bleeds in his brain, and twelve staples on the back of his head, closing a large laceration.

As we gathered what we needed for the trip to Albany, we contacted friends and relatives, activating every prayer network we knew.

Inwardly I talked continuously to Divine Mother. “Ben is Your child. I’m his mother in this life, but eternally he belongs to You. I surrender to Your will for him, whatever it may be.” Then I added, “You are going to have to handle this through me. I cannot do this alone.”

When we got to the Medical Center it was past midnight. About thirty of Ben’s friends were in the waiting room, anxious to know how he was doing. Medical information could not be released to anyone but his family.

In the ICU, Ben was wired into all the most advanced medical devices. He was pale, but otherwise seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Whether asleep or unconscious, I could feel Ben was present. His soul had not separated from his body.

Softly I stroked his hair, saying over and over again, “You’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.” This was partly affirmation, and partly a true expression of a growing hope I felt inside.

After several hours I simply had to go to the hotel room reserved for us, to get some rest. My husband stayed with Ben, so I felt free to leave. And I felt Divine Mother also there, watching over him.

I slept briefly and fitfully, then got up to pray and meditate. To my immense relief, I felt Divine Mother reassuring me, “Ben will recover.”

From then on nothing could shake my faith. Alone in the hotel room I sang Swamiji’s song, “Brothers”—especially moved by the lines: One Life beneath the surface binds every man to me. Who knows himself knows all men as brothers.

When I thought of Ben’s friends sitting vigil in the waiting room, and of Swamiji and our Ananda friends worldwide praying for him, tears of gratitude spilled down my cheeks.

Interestingly, at the same time Divine Mother was reassuring me, the doctor was preparing my husband for the worst. “Your son is in critical condition!” he emphatically declared.

The next morning, even though his eyes were closed and he was in a semi-conscious state, Ben must have sensed my presence or recognized my voice.

“Hi, Mama,” he whispered.

We had sent Swamiji a photo of Ben, taken in the ICU. Swamiji’s secretary told us Swamiji looked at it intently for several minutes, then said quietly, “He’ll be okay.”

For ten days Ben stayed in the Medical Center, moving in and out of consciousness. Sometimes, in his periods of wakefulness, Ben felt waves of love, both human and divine, washing over him. Often he wept with gratitude.

The dear man whose car Ben had smashed into had been so traumatized by the accident that he couldn’t bear to come to the hospital until it was clear that Ben would survive.

“I don’t know if you believe in God,” he said with tears in his eyes, “but I know God is real, and He is watching out for all of us.”

Three and a half weeks later, Ben came home.

“When I think of how fast I was going on that bike, how far I flew, and how hard my head hit the pavement, I have no explanation for why I am alive, or why I have recovered so quickly,” he said. “Many others at the hospital, whose accidents were far less severe than mine, are suffering much more than I. It doesn’t add up. But here I am. So somehow it must.”

For a long time Ben’s peers had been more important to him than his parents. Now he seemed content just to be home with us, sharing the kind of time parents rarely have with an almost-grown son. At times we feared it was “lack of initiative,” one of the lingering effects of traumatic brain injury. Mostly, though, we felt (and Ben concurred) that the accident had given him an expanded perspective on everything. There was a special tenderness to our relationship during these months of recovery.

I have had a serious spiritual practice since before Ben was born, so he has often been exposed to meditation and the Ananda teachings I follow. But now he started looking into them on his own. He had been on the receiving end of the power of prayer and wanted to find out more about that dimension of life.

In May 2012, for the first time since he was a child, Ben came with me to Ananda Village in California for a long weekend celebrating Swami Kriyananda’s eighty-sixth birthday.

At a special dinner, Ben and I sat across the room from Swamiji. Even though his body is frail, and he rarely walks unassisted, when Swamiji heard we were there, he rose from his chair and with great effort came to greet Ben.
Ben rose to welcome Swamiji and for some time they stood, wrapped in each other’s arms, while the whole room watched in reverent silence.

“When I was in the hospital,” Ben told Swamiji, “I felt such love and deep interconnectedness with all of life. Many times I wept.”

“I feel that too,” Swamiji replied.

After dinner, Ben said to me, “Whatever you did, however you got me to come here, thank you.”

All I had done was invite him as I had many times before, since he became old enough to make his own decisions. He was the one who was different. This time he said “Yes.”